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by ARLnow.com — November 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm 4,203 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Columbia Pike resident Nicholas Evans.

I’m not a pro-streetcar zealot. However, living a few blocks from Columbia Pike, I was generally supportive of the streetcar as the best available option to spur growth and alleviate congestion. There was also an element of needing to keep a promise that had been made to developers and local business owners. Nevertheless, I heard and understood the passionate arguments made by many friends of mine in opposition. There are no perfect answers.

With the decision made, we face some new realities. The Columbia Pike area is now a much less attractive place to buy a home or locate a business. More broadly, Arlington has sent a signal to potential residents, businesses and other local governments that it cannot be counted on to hold up its end of the bargain. Governor McAuliffe has been told, “No thanks. Don’t spend transportation money here.” Those are not political statements, but facts. Major policy decisions have consequences.

I take our County Board members at their word that work will continue to develop new transportation options. However, for people who are celebrating, your work is unfinished. Here are your assignments:

  • County Board Member Vihstadt: Congratulations. You successfully provided a channel within the system to defeat the streetcar. Throughout your campaigns, you opposed the streetcar because you wanted to do more for “core services”–education and affordable housing. There is no more streetcar to fight so let’s see you keep your promises. I expect results and, no, you are not allowed to pass the buck on the school overcrowding issue. Education is as core as it gets. Time to get to work.
  • To County Board Member Garvey: You have repeatedly suggested that “money is money” and that there truly wasn’t dedicated money for the streetcar. This was a very effective argument–should we be building this when we have so many other needs? Although I might be disappointed about the streetcar, I am very excited that we now have more money to spend in other areas requiring investment. I would imagine you have some bold and potentially expensive proposals that are ready to go. I look forward to evaluating them.
  • To Neighbors in South Arlington Opposed to the Streetcar: No whining. If development continues along the Pike, you can’t complain about vehicles parked in front of your house and the Pike itself turning into a parking lot choked with all those new drivers. On the flip side, if development stagnates or regresses, no complaining about the lack of restaurants, unsafe streets or crumbling infrastructure.
  • To Neighbors in North Arlington Opposed to the Streetcar: Same as your South Arlington allies. No whining. I’m assuming that the inflammatory stuff I’ve read about North Arlington taxpayers not wanting to spend money in South Arlington is fiction. I have many good friends north of 50 who have opposed this project and I know that’s not their view. Regardless, North Arlington residents won’t feel the same congestion impact except for periodic trips to Dick’s to buy a new set of cleats for their kids. However, if development along the Pike stalls, the tax base won’t broaden. This will be exacerbated as it becomes harder to lure businesses to any part of Arlington–most people won’t locate in a jurisdiction that can’t be trusted to keep its word. As a result, you all will be on the hook to fund an even greater share of the proposals coming from Board Members Vihstadt and Garvey. No whining about any tax hikes.

Finally, there is one team project for everyone identified above. You will continue to be vigilant about spending countywide. There have been plenty of “vanity projects” in my 13 years here and many of you were silent on all of them. I assume at a minimum that you all strongly oppose the proposal to establish a second Metro line through North Arlington. From your perspective, it would seem to be an enormous expense that we cannot afford. I’ll look forward to seeing strong resistance should that project gain momentum. More broadly, I trust that you will be consistent rather than selective in how high you set the bar for all county spending.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to arlingtonnews@gmail.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

by Mark Kelly — November 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm 803 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe Arlington streetcar is no more. It came just one year after the father of the project, Chris Zimmerman, announced he was resigning. Even the most hopeful of opponents found themselves surprised at the announcement on Tuesday.

Over the course of nearly a decade, a small vocal minority became a silent majority, which became a voting majority against the project. After losing two elections in a row, two of the Board members finally acknowledged public sentiment. Walter Tejada ignored the election results and voted to keep moving forward on the project.

The streetcar project was emblematic of the way the County Board has made decisions in recent memory. When you only talk to people who largely agree with you, you get a feedback loop that too often ignores public sentiment. See also the Artisphere and aquatics center.

Arlingtonians are generally willing to pay more than their fair share of taxes, but now the Board knows they have their limits. Arlingtonians should turn their attention to smaller ticket items in the budget and should hold the Board to account for how they make spending decisions in general. As we dig in further, I think we will find that too often, our elected officials chase a shiny object rather than focus on core services.

So, while defeating a half-a-billion dollar project is good for taxpayers, it is time to get that independent audit function up and running to find savings elsewhere in the budget. We certainly should not be buying the argument that times are tight when Arlington’s per capita spending is $4,623 — or $461 more than our similarly situated neighbor — Alexandria.

On Tuesday, the County Board completed the annual closeout process where they made over $240 million in spending decisions. Included in that process was approval to spend an additional $28.5 million in underestimated real estate tax revenue and $4.2 million in extra personal property tax revenue.

Once again, the revenue estimates on which County Board members based annual budget decisions were way off. Real estate taxes ran 4.7 percent ahead of initial estimates, even with the rate decrease we received in April.

So, it is of little consolation when the Board offered budget guidance Tuesday that would hold tax rates steady. If not a tax rate cut, maybe it is time for a County Board member to call for an annual rebate process. For instance, if real estate revenues ran more than 1 percent ahead of budget, the excess would automatically be rebated to taxpayers rather than spent.

If we start to limit the revenue the Board has available to spend, it will force them to make better budget decisions. A rebate may be a bold proposal for Arlington, but now is the time for bold.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Ginger Brown — November 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,239 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ginger BrownAs Arlington faces challenges that are not easy to resolve, it is important to take note of a recent success story about Arlingtonians working together to build consensus around a dynamic vision for the future of a neighborhood.

During a two-year process driven by resident input and feedback, the Waverly Hills Civic Association (WHCA) developed the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Conservation Plan (NCP) — a document that fosters a more closely knit community, identifies citizen-driven capital improvement projects, and lays out a dynamic vision for the future of our neighborhood.

Last Saturday, the WHCA’s hard work resulted in a unanimous vote by the Arlington County Board to approve the NCP. The WHCA members’ consensus building efforts are a testament to the power of grassroots, citizen-led planning and to the trust placed by the County in the NCP process as a way to improve neighborhoods and help them thrive.

The creation of the WHCA’s NCP was an exercise in community building. Different generations with varying needs came together to forge an updated vision for Waverly Hills. All of us who participated received an education about the neighborhood’s rich history, its connections to Lee Highway, and its perceived strengths and weaknesses. Long-time residents listened to the concerns of newcomers, and vice versa. Neighborhood residents built shared understanding and trust through well-attended brunches, bake sales, and happy hours.

Through its process, the WHCA identified several capital improvement projects that would be beneficial to the neighborhood and around which consensus had developed, focused principally on Woodstock Park and pedestrian safety.

Woodstock Park — like most parks in Arlington — is a valuable resource. WHCA reached a consensus that the park should be more than just a children’s play area; it should be place for all ages to enjoy. A section of the park was identified as a top-priority capital improvement project, which will result in the addition of recreational uses primarily for adults such as a formal garden area for reading, chess tables, and a place for yoga classes.

The WHCA NCP also included spending recommendations for sidewalks and other pedestrian safety projects. Waverly Hills is within walking distance of Lee Highway and Ballston, both of which are major transportation and shopping hubs. We are also proximate to three schools — Glebe Elementary, Washington-Lee High School and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program — that are experiencing the capacity challenges that come with increased enrollment. Because sidewalks are expensive, the WHCA prioritized projects that connect residents to transit, shopping, schools, and parks.

The WHCA NCP also addresses critical issues confronting seniors in our community. Seventy percent of Waverly Hills’ residents expect to retire in the neighborhood. This has prompted a community goal of creating a comprehensive aging-in-place strategy, including supporting the “Villages” concept, expanding senior housing options so that seniors can stay in the neighborhood, and ensuring that the local hospital has the capacity to keep up with the coming wave of healthcare demands.

This vision for Waverly Hills is ambitious, but it is also workable and affordable. Hopefully, the successful implementation of the NCP will help create bonds within the neighborhood and restore faith in the ability of Arlingtonians to work together in a fiscally responsible manner to enhance the quality of life for our residents and to improve a neighborhood that is rich in history and tradition.

Ginger Brown is the immediate past president of the Waverly Hills Civic Association. She is a co-founder of the Lee Highway Alliance and currently serves on the Arlington County Planning Commission.

by Peter Rousselot — November 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm 1,796 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOn Nov. 18, four members of the Arlington County Board (Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes, Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt) voted to cancel Arlington’s $500 million+ streetcar projects. I commend Jay Fisette and Mary Hynes for this statesman-like vote.

For all of the reasons outlined on the website www.sensibletransit.org of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST), the vote to cancel Arlington’s streetcar projects also was the right decision as a matter of transportation policy — as Garvey and Vihstadt recognized previously.

On Nov. 18, the County Board also issued guidance to the County Manager to prepare the County’s FY 2016 operating budget.

Although a majority of the Board now has voted to cancel Arlington’s streetcar projects, the Board’s new budget guidance continues to reflect many other flawed priorities of County Board members Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada. Fisette, Hynes and Tejada still have the votes on our five-member Board to pass budget guidance that incorporates priorities that are wrong for Arlington.

Here are some examples of alternative budget guidance that our County Board should have given the County Manager, but failed to give:

  • our highest priority is to fund Arlington Public Schools (including incremental funds to address the school capacity crisis);
  • the School Board has asked the County Board to increase its transfer to APS to cover the cost of enrollment growth, a step increase for its employees and to eliminate early release days at the four remaining schools that still provide early release. The County’s actual budget guidance will leave APS with a shortfall of $23.8 million; that $23.8 million shortfall should be restored;
  • redirect funding toward other core services such as basic infrastructure maintenance (roads, water mains, sewers), sensible transit, and public safety; finance this redirection of funds by comparable cuts in other programs and operations;
  • working collaboratively with Fairfax and Alexandria, retain truly independent transportation experts to prepare an operating plan for a robust regional BRT system serving the Columbia Pike, Route 1/Crystal City, and other appropriate transit corridors;
  • provide alternative plans for use of the $80+ million currently set aside for the capital costs of the Aquatics Center because we have decided to cancel this project as it is currently designed; Arlington cannot afford to pay the currently estimated $4 million per year to operate such a facility.
  • provide a cut in the property tax rate of no less than 1 cent.


Like every other community in America, Arlington must set priorities for how it spends its money. If everything is a priority, nothing truly can be a priority. Leadership involves explaining why some programs and projects must be cut in order to fully fund other programs and projects that have a higher priority.

Many of Arlington’s priorities are right. Certain of Arlington’s priorities are wrong. Arlington should continue to change those of its priorities that are wrong.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by ARLnow.com — November 19, 2014 at 10:15 am 4,154 0

Columbia Pike streetcar renderingAfter years of planning, community meetings and debate, Arlington’s planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system was scuttled yesterday following a somber press conference and brief vote.

County Board Chair and streetcar supporter Jay Fisette said the voters had spoken in their election of streetcar opponent John Vihstadt, and “political realities” meant that the streetcar project must be derailed.

Do you agree with the decision?

by Peter Rousselot — November 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm 1,779 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

Arlington is thinking far too narrowly about the APS capacity crisis.

Our options should not be limited to property currently owned or leased by APS. With the exception of parkland, all property currently owned or leased by the County also should be considered. Subject to a cost-benefit analysis, so should property not currently owned or leased.

No neighborhood should be immune.

We provided the tax revenue that enabled both APS and the County to acquire title to land, but APS and the County should not be treating that land like private property owners.

Jason Rylander, a leading community activist, has provided a valuable roadmap on how we might approach these issues. In an Oct. 23 letter, Rylander outlines a series of needed changes.

Below is a summary of some of Rylander’s best ideas (Much more detail is provided in his letter).

Expand Evaluation Criteria For New Schools

The current criteria for considering county-owned property as sites for new school facilities are far too restrictive.

For example, why should:

  • sites be limited to “an existing school site adjacent to more than one acre of County Board-owned property”?
  • there be a restriction on considering sites smaller than 3.5 acres?

Vacant office space should be considered.

Joint County-APS Planning Process To Locate Best Sites

We need a comprehensive, integrated vision regarding where our school facilities should be located and why. That vision should be developed by combining County and APS expertise in a master planning exercise.

The Arlington public justifiably lacks confidence that our current public institutions are doing the best job estimating future public school enrollment.

Based on the most recently available data, APS now appears to be planning for at least a 32,300-student system. But, because the goalposts keep moving so frequently, the public is rightly skeptical.

Improve Public Communication and Outreach on Potential Sites

It’s long past time to break down the silos between the County and APS.

The current lack of transparency in discussing these issues and presenting them for public discussion is unacceptable. As Rylander explains:

Repeatedly, citizens have been told that certain sites are not “on the table” or “cannot be discussed publicly” due to ongoing negotiations between our county and school governments.


Jason Rylander and I don’t agree on every aspect of how best to handle the capacity crisis. For example, we respectfully differ on the extent to which parkland should be part of the conversation. However, the community owes Jason a vote of thanks for his thoughtful recommendations on how best to proceed.

The County and APS need a new start on this issue.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — November 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm 585 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyOn Tuesday, the Arlington County Board will give its annual budget guidance to the County Manager.

First, and probably most importantly, this guidance is almost always ignored when it comes to building the final budget. It is a jumping off point to the six-month budget building process. The Board will not be bound by what it says now when it comes to taxes or spending levels.

As we enter budget season, we hear a lot of terminology thrown around. One of my favorites is “shortfall.”

It does not mean what you think it means. We do not have shortfalls in Arlington. Our spending goes up every year — every single year in recent memory. And nearly every year, it goes up faster than the rate of inflation plus population growth — a standard measure for whether your government is spending a higher percentage of your income each year than it needs to maintain current levels of service.

Think our schools have shortfalls? Not really. Case in point, Arlington schools shook the couch cushions and found enough to buy MacBook Air computers for every 9th grader at three high schools this summer, all from unspent funds.

At the end of every year, the County Board also has tens of millions in extra tax revenue available to spend on non-budgeted items in what is known as the closeout process. The schools get a cut of the closeout money every year as well. This process will also take place at Tuesday’s meeting, but the report outlining how much it will be was still not available online.

Since this revenue underestimation of revenue happens every year, one might think the County Manager would adjust her estimating process. But, she doesn’t. A working theory is that the County likes for projected revenues to create so-called “shortfalls” in order to increase public pressure to raise taxes.

The Board did trim the property tax rate by one penny per hundred dollars in assessed values in the spring. But, our real tax bill still went up by $324 on average this year.

Based on initial estimates reported in the Washington Post, the average single family tax bill is slated to go up by 8 percent next year, or $440, if the tax rate remains the same. It never sounds like too much each year, but it adds up over time.

It is time to stop the annual rite of passage of public relations maneuvers that keep raising our taxes far faster than is warranted. We should see guidance to trim the tax rate again next spring. And, we should start the discussion of permanent guidance to the County Manager to cap revenue and spending growth at the rate of inflation plus population.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Mike Lieberman — November 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm 949 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mike LiebermanRight before last week’s election, David Letterman’s said in his nightly monologue:

“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6 percent, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder [President Obama] is so unpopular.”

In three short lines, Letterman encapsulated thoughts of Democrats around the country.

By many metrics, the country is better off than when Barack Obama took office. To Letterman’s metrics, I would add a resurgent American auto industry, millions more Americans with health insurance, extricating ourselves from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (albeit with an escalating military presence against ISIS), and expanding access to higher education and quality jobs.

And yet, on Election Day, Democrats across the country took a drubbing.  Even in Virginia, once-invincible Mark Warner eked out only a narrow victory.

Many Democrats wonder how is it, given what is going right, that people could still be so dissatisfied?

The answer, I believe, is simple. People are not necessarily upset with any one metric, one issue, or even with the state of our country generally. They are upset with the dysfunction of our government, which has muted these successes. On Tuesday, people voted against the party in control of the White House and Senate — or in many cases, they didn’t vote at all.

In recent years, the tone of discourse in Washington has been toxic. There is rarely a day without reports about one party attacking the other. Mitch McConnell’s No. 1 legislative goal was to thwart President Obama’s political agenda. President Obama blamed Republican obstructionism for a lack of progress. The media exacerbates this problem by scorekeeping on who’s up and who’s down after each round of finger pointing. And the public is simply left to throw up its hands.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2008, voters turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama on the promise of a post-partisan Washington — where the parties could come together to hash out compromise on tough issues. Younger voters in particular responded to this positive message.

Yet six years later, little in Washington has changed. If anything, the tone is worse. The 2008 voters are therefore left to question why they should even participate in elections at all.

Political inaction on tough issues simply feeds this narrative. Indeed, all too often our government shirks tough decisions in the interest of perceived political expediency.

For example, on immigration reform, both Republicans and Democrats agree that our current system isn’t working, that immigrants have a role to play in our economy, that we would benefit from more security on our borders, and that the growing influx of immigrants on our southern border has created an unsustainable humanitarian crisis. Though there is disagreement about how these factors should be prioritized in an immigration “fix,” the seeds of compromise should exist.

Yet rather than undertake the tough negotiations needed to reach agreement, both sides were content to let the issue lapse and instead trade barbs over who was to blame. This is not governing, and it is not what we send our representatives to Washington to do.

Last Tuesday, voters took out their frustrations on Democrats. Now that Republicans control both the Senate and the House, I believe they will face the same voter backlash if they do not change their approach. Mitch McConnell’s statement immediately following that election that he wants to “work together [with President Obama] on issues where we can agree” is a good — albeit tepid — start, as was President Obama’s similar overture. (more…)

by ARLnow.com — November 10, 2014 at 10:00 am 2,999 0

John Vihstadt debates at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014There are many reasons cited for Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt’s historic electoral victory last week.

Most explanations seem to center around concern about county spending projects. Among them: the delayed and increasingly expensive streetcar system, the indefinitely delayed $80+ million Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the delayed and occasionally problematic $1.6 million Clarendon dog park, and the delayed and occasionally problematic $1 million bus stop.

If you voted for Vihstadt, which of the following, if any, was foremost in your mind in the voting booth?

by Krysta Jones — November 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm 646 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Krysta JonesArlington is a community that has strong tradition of women in leadership positions — in businesses, government, nonprofits and electoral politics.

Carrying on that tradition is something that we cannot take for granted. Fortunately, our community creates opportunities to promote leadership and career opportunities for women.

Recently, the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women, Ballston Business Improvement District, Living Vicky and the Arlington chapter of the National Organization for Women held the 2014 Women in Business Conference titled “Women in Non-Traditional Careers.”

It was a good opportunity to network and listen to panelists in nontraditional careers for women: financial services, law enforcement, entrepreneurship, and corporate executive positions.

Moderated by Maureen Bunyan of ABC7, the panel engaged the audience with personal experiences, words of advice, and thoughts on encouraging women to pursue nontraditional careers.

I believe that we can learn those lessons at a young age. My father tells a story about when I was 2 years old. One minute he was watching me in the front yard and the next minute I was gone. He soon found me at a playground we frequented down the street. Although he helped me to understand risks, he also encouraged me to want to get back to that playground!

I imagine all of the dynamic women panelists have similar childhood stories of independence, taking risks and setting goals, just like I did in wanting to get to the playground.

The event ended with a raffle for an “Entrepreneur” Barbie. Despite her faults, the Mattel doll introduced in 1959 has had nontraditional and empowering careers — astronaut, politician, surgeon, and football coach. In that admirable way, Barbie has been a model for girls and boys to be open to and comfortable with seeing women in all types of careers.

Fortunately, I grew up at a time when women were increasingly encouraged to explore all careers. That helped me decide to go into the “nontraditional” career of politics. In 2014, fewer than 25 percent of elected officials at the federal level, in statewide office, and in state legislatures are women, and only 40 percent of all school board members are women.

A 2013 Huffington Post article cites Census Bureau reports that the leading occupations for women in 1970 were secretaries, bookkeepers, and elementary school teachers. In 2006-2010, the leading occupations, similarly, were secretaries and administrative assistants, cashiers, and elementary/middle school teachers. Leading jobs for men were also similar in 1970 (miscellaneous managers, truck drivers, and production supervisors) and today (truck drivers, miscellaneous managers, and freight, stock, and material movers).

Moderator Bunyan noted that her profession — journalism — has seen increasing numbers of women over time. She remembers when sexual harassment and discrimination were acceptable behavior. Today, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act offers protection to individuals encountering gender-based discrimination such as sexual harassment and direct requests for sexual favors, as well as workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for men or women.

According to Norma Carr-Ruffino, an expert on women in management, economic need drove many women to work. She credits affirmative action for redefining the cultural acceptance of working women and giving people an opportunity to “experience women and minorities in roles that they thought they could never be good at.” (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — November 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,735 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotIn Tuesday’s County Board election, Arlington voters again rendered a decisive verdict on major priorities and practices of the current majority on the Arlington County Board (Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada).

The verdict: change your priorities and practices, or we’ll elect others who will.

Independent John Vihstadt won another landslide election by again uniting tens of thousands of Arlington Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents into a broad-based coalition that shares Vihstadt’s policy priorities and rejects those of Fisette, Hynes and Tejada:

  • prioritize spending on Arlington’s core government services (e.g., overcrowded schools, basic infrastructure, sensible transit, and public safety),
  • end spending on wasteful and extravagant projects like streetcars, a gold-plated aquatics center, and more fancy dog parks,
  • provide far greater transparency and accountability in Arlington County government.


For Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada

The statesman-like thing you should do now is to vote to cancel extravagant, wasteful and unnecessary projects like streetcars and the aquatics center. Commit instead to redirect our tax dollars toward investments in:

  • public schools,
  • basic infrastructure (sewers, water mains, roads),
  • sensible transit, and
  • public safety.

Move forward aggressively with new initiatives to make Arlington’s government far more transparent.

For all other Arlington Democratic elected officials

Tell Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada it’s time to unite the community around the agenda outlined above. Renounce further plans to support a referendum on the streetcar because there is ZERO likelihood that Virginia will enact legislation forcing Arlington to hold a binding referendum on the streetcar.

For the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC)

You have lost the excuse that Vihstadt’s election in the spring was a fluke. Don’t make the same mistake again. Alan Howze lost both elections because he embraced policy priorities for Arlington (e.g., streetcars, aquatics center) that a majority of Arlington voters don’t want.

Because these policy priorities do not spring from core Democratic values, thousands of Arlington Democrats rejected the Democratic candidate who championed these failed policies. If you keep nominating candidates who advocate these failed policies, Arlington voters will continue to reject those candidates.

Some of the practices ACDC itself adopted after Vihstadt’s spring victory have subjected ACDC to justifiable ridicule. Examples:

  • telling Democratic elected officials and leaders they are not welcome at public ACDC meetings,
  • dropping Democratic elected officials and leaders from broad-based ACDC email lists,
  • placing a Democratic elected official on what the Sun-Gazette derisively called “double-blind secret probation.”

Unflattering comparisons to the Soviet politburo continue to circulate. ACDC leadership should renounce all such practices, and embrace the politics of addition instead of the politics of subtraction.


It is no longer enough to get elected to the County Board that you be the Democratic nominee. 

by Mark Kelly — November 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm 1,621 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyAccording to Inside Nova, Kip Malinosky, Chairman of the Arlington Democrats said he was going to try and “reverse engineer” Tuesday’s County Board loss. Malinosky told ARLnow, “…people are obviously unsatisfied about something… ”

“Something?” Not that I am opposed to allowing the Arlington Democrats to waste their time on a reverse engineering project, but I can make it simple for them: Tell the County Board to stop doing things a majority of voters oppose.

John Vihstadt is the voice of the majority in Arlington when it comes to big-ticket spending items. It used to be a quiet voice, but now it has spoken. Twice. Overwhelmingly.

By back of the envelope estimates, more than one out of every three Warner voters ignored the Democrats’ sample ballot to vote for Vihstadt. This after Democrats spun the special election result as merely being the by-product of a lower turnout.

The Board has spun, advertised, paid for friendly studies, lectured, cajoled, and decried opposition on the streetcar. It has not worked. We are not buying it. They have lost the argument. Unfortunately for the voters, the current makeup of the Board still has the votes to move forward — at least for another year.

And, it sounds like they have every intention of moving forward. This paragraph from yesterday’s ARLnow story seems to sum up just how oblivious the current trio of streetcar supporters is:

Tejada also obliquely referred to Garvey and Vihstadt’s rhetoric as “divisive,” saying many of the Board’s critics are “condensing” the issues into “sound bites.” He said he looked forward to “continue to inform details to the community, particularly factual information that it took quite a long time to get to.”

Just because someone opposes you, does not mean they are being divisive. Just because it took you a long time to make a bad decision does not mean it should not be reversed.

The streetcar trio can stay in its bubble and talk only to their supporters, or they can take the vote on Tuesday for what it was. If the Board does not reverse course before next November, we will probably be reading another story about how the “dominant” political party in the county is trying to “reverse engineer” another loss.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by ARLnow.com — October 31, 2014 at 6:30 pm 2,558 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by local resident Bobbie Fisher.

Fisher also wrote about the intersection of race and Arlington politics in a letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette last year.

Last April, high-profiled Democrats like Libby Garvery, Theo Stamos, Peter Rousselot, Frank Thomas and loyal grassroot voters REJECTED Democratic nominee Alan Howze, who “lost badly” by 3,500 votes to Republican John Vihstadt for the County Board seat. The Sun Gazette quoted the Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman:

“We certainly lost. We lost badly on Tuesday,” said Kip Malinosky, chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Party. “We need to do much more to listen, much more to engage, much more to rebuild the trust that has eroded over the years.”

ACDC Chair Malinosky just doesn’t get it! The County’s white leadership has never bothered to “engage” nor “listen” to the issues of Black voters: jobs, minority students trapped in poor performing schools; gentrification of Nauck neighborhood; affordable housing, and the under representation of black-owned businesses.

What has ACDC done for Black voters? As an African American, homeowner and taxpayer there’s never been any open up discussion about the County’s racial disparities. For decades, Arlington County continue to exclude African Americans from elected public office and at senior-level positions in government.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently released her new book who is no fan of Arlington. “We lived in a soulless suburb. It wasn’t the right place for us, and we needed a change,” she wrote.

Here’s why Arlington remains a “soulless suburb.”

Barbara Donellan, first female County Manager resides in Fairfax County — not in Arlington! Worse, Ms. Donellan has 19 senior-level leaders who report directly to her. No African-American male or female is employed on Ms. Donellan’s senior-level staff.

This year, four highly qualified African-American Democrats were on the local ballot for public office: Bill Euille (three-term mayor of Alexandria); Charniele Herring; Lavern Chatman and Atima Omara-Alwala. All lost! Not a single black candidate won any support from ACDC, or any significant white votes in Arlington.

Alan Howze,”consistently talked about the need to support our educators and address the overcrowding challenges we face.” Yet, avoids discussing declining SOL grades at Drew School, where he attended as a child. Howze is silent on the growing achievement gap among minority children. In 2013, Drew ranked worse than 80.5% of elementary schools in Virginia.

John Vihstadt may ask tough questions about spending priorities, yet ignores discussing the County’s racial disparities in senior-level positions in government.

So, why should African American residents vote for candidates who ignore the concerns of black voters? Fifty years ago, Arlington County was wrong on racial segregation. Fifty years later African-Americans remain excluded from County politics and in government.

In 1984 Evelyn Reid Syphax, a former Arlington elementary school teacher who served extensively on a variety of elected and appointed boards for schools and civic and community organizations, was often identified as “the only black member of the school board.” Syphax was quoted in the Washington Post: “We have not arrived if I still have to have that distinction.”

In 2014, thirty years later, Ms. Syphax words rings true today, “We have not arrived.”

On Election Day, November 4, Black voters need to stand up to both Democrats and Republicans and demand: “no seat at the table – No Votes!!”

Bobbie Fisher
Pentagon City

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to arlingtonnews@gmail.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm 697 0

Micah EdmondThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District Micah Edmond’s unedited response: 

The congressional race in the 8th District to replace Jim Moran should be about your priorities and your future. You deserve a candidate that spends no time attacking anyone else, no time talking about their political party and no time looking backwards. Instead, you deserve a candidate that talks about an inclusive future. That’s specifically why I didn’t put a political party label on my campaign literature. I believe all that mattered was telling you my vision, my priorities, and my plan to achieve those priorities.

I believe leaders rise above party and should be measured by results rather than popularity or polls. While leaders should have common principles and values rooted in organizations like political parties, they should be willing to abandon party orthodoxy when it pushes for all or nothing extremes over a willingness to compromise on bi-partisan, practical solutions that achieve progress.

I got into this race last year because I was tired of partisanship that blocked results in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Both were willing to accept sequestration as a partisan political issue to campaign on in the mid-term elections rather than embrace a bi-partisan compromises like the President’s Simpson-Bowles Commission and Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, both of which I was happy to serve on as a senior advisor. The failure to enact these compromises proves that while we have real, bi-partisan solutions, we lack real leaders willing to compromise and enact them.

So here is why I would like your vote.

  1. My vision — I want to make the American Dream achievable again for all people. I want to move past short-term fixes and enact annual budgets that control spending while making investments in our collective national and economic security.  Fiscal conservatism and investments in the future are not mutually exclusive. I believe both are necessary to ensure we don’t mortgage away our future.
  2. Priorities — I want to enact a long-term budget that grows the economy and creates jobs by making regular investments in education, infrastructure and our national defense. I want immediate immigration reforms that transition un-documented workers into a legal status but does not include citizenship. And I want immediate changes that make healthcare more affordable and portable.
  3. Plan — I favor a 10-year budget plan along the lines of Simpson- Bowles. My plan achieves a 2:1 ratio of cuts to new revenue raised, balances the budget in 5 years and retires a third of the national debt in 10 years. My plan achieves this through four areas: (1) Tax relief for the middle class and small businesses, (2) Tax reform that closes corporate welfare loopholes and ends tax incentives that don’t focus on job creation, small business ownership, education, home ownership and research and development, (3) Entitlement reform that grandfathers the benefits for seniors and veterans either receiving or within a few years of receiving benefits while also enacting changes for all others that reflect the realities of a new labor force including life expectancy and recruiting and retention differences and (4) Enacting a 5-10% cut in federal discretionary spending over ten years that abandons sequestration in favor of allowing agency experts the flexibility to impose cuts.

I would be proud to have your vote and represent the whole 8th district. I have continued to make my campaign forward looking and inclusive. With your support, you can trust me to bring a new vision, a new voice and a new energy to making the American Dream achievable again for all people.

Please visit www.micahedmond.com for more information, or email me at micah@micahedmond.com.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,019 0

Jeffrey CarsonThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Libertarian candidate for the 8th Congressional District Jeffrey Carson’s unedited response: 

Simply put, you should vote for me because it’s in your best interest to do so.

(But you’re a Libertarian! Aren’t all Libertarians kooks?)

Let’s take a look at the issues, shall we? Let’s take a look at where we might see eye-to-eye. My guess is we’re going to agree on a whole lot more than you think.

Do we agree that it’s wrong to steal from future generations to pay for things today we can’t afford? Do we agree that our $17.9 trillion in debt is a problem we can’t continue to pretend doesn’t exist? Do we agree that it’s about time Congress got its act together and ran a balanced budget?

Do we agree that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that it’s wrong to print $ trillions out of thin air and hand it over to Wall Street in order to enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent? Do we agree that it’s time we eliminated all forms of corporate welfare, and that the federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers or doling out favors to this industry or that one?

Do we agree that we shouldn’t constantly be picking fights around every corner of the globe, that putting our service members’ lives at risk for yet another war in the Middle East is not a good idea, and that (high-level) a foreign policy of non-interventionism — by way of free trade, smart diplomacy, and honest friendship — might just be the best way to go?

Do we agree that having the highest incarceration rate in the entire world is not something we Americans should be particularly proud of, and that it’s about time we stopped putting people in prison for using a substance? Do we agree that we should be treating drug use — and in particular, drug abuse — as a public health issue instead of a criminal one? Do we agree that the practice of civil asset forfeiture is about as unconstitutional as it gets and needs to be stopped immediately?

Do we agree that we shouldn’t have to worry about being spied upon by our own government? Do we agree that Benjamin Franklin was right when he said: “Those that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”?

Do we agree that when it comes to our children’s education, parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and local communities should have (much) more of a say than Washington bureaucrats and labor unions?

Do we agree that the opportunity for a better life — the American Dream — should be available to those honest, hardworking people around the world who would choose to come to this great country to pursue it?

Do we agree that individuals and families tend to make better decisions than lobbyists and bureaucrats when it comes to our personal lives and financial affairs?

I’m betting we agree on a whole heck of a lot.

Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

If you’re concerned about the direction our country is headed — as I am — and if you want to see meaningful change in Washington — as I do — maybe it’s time you tried something new at the ballot box. Maybe it’s time you voted for a Libertarian.

I really am one of the good guys, folks, and I need your help. I’m asking for your support. I’m asking for your vote. I’m asking you to help me restore some sanity to Washington.


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